Paris at Easter

Dawn, and we were up early to get to Notre Dame cathedral. Security was fairly tight, with bag searches before entering the cathedral square. Being early, we were able to get through quickly. With about an hour to go before the Gregorian mass, we perambulated slowly around the interior while the early mass was on.

Time to light a couple of candles for those we have left behind, before finding a seat.

The enormous cathedral filled quickly with probably about 2000 people. It was a little disturbing to see the ‘beware of pickpockets’ signs – but yes even inside the cathedral, and even during mass there are those who seek to take advantage of a crowd.

The music and ceremony were deeply moving. We were immersed in divine singing and bathed in the light from the stained glass windows. Everywhere wisps of incense caught the light creating shafts of colour.

On a previous stay we rented an apartment in the Marais district on the street that was built to house the workers and artisans who created the stained glass back in the C12th-C13th.

Musée Delacroix is just around the corner, so we headed up to check it out. He was a very expressive painter and a leader in the French Romantic movement. His loose brushwork and vibrant use of colour pre-figured the impressionists that came a generation later. It is a small apartment with adjoining studio and garden, and well worth an hour or so. It was interesting to see how he set up a scene with people dressed in exotic Moroccan dress and invited his fellow painters over to tackle the scene in paint. There are photos too of these scenes. To see artists like this use the latest in technology to enhance their art was well worthwhile.

When photography came along, there were real questions about the role of painters now that accurate images could be captured by camera in minutes, rather than captured over days and even months in the case of oils. From this tension -known as the ‘crisis of representation’ – came a rethinking of the role of art to capture the emotional and inner psychological reality, rather than just painting a scene or portrait. Painting and drawing is still a way of looking at and perceiving the world.

We walked up to the Tuileries gardens in the afternoon to sketch the Musée du Louvre. As the weather closed in we called it quits with the under-drawing done, to be inked later and toned in with aquarelle graphite.

It was time for dinner in the Latin quarter once again.

Paris in the Spring

It has a great ring to it, doesn’t it? The huge A380 plane lurched alarmingly and with a loud crunch we had landed in some pretty challenging weather – several passengers applauded – this is definitely where pilots earn their salaries. ‘Mesdames et monsieurs, bienvenue a Paris’ and with that we were off in search of our baggage. And here is my first Paris travel tip: when seeking a taxi, walk straight past the taxi touts that operate inside the terminal – some even look fairly official – instead, follow the blue signs and line on the ground and head for the official taxi rank. The official taxis have meters and a mandated fixed fare to anywhere in central paris EUR55.

The touts will most likely still deliver you to your destination, but with a meter running and via a circuitous route, or will try to tell you that the fixed fare is more like 70EUR. So save you money and head for the official rank.

I may do a piece later about scams in Paris, but suffice to say it is not Asia, so look out for your valuables as pickpockets are around.

Our hotel is on the left bank of the Seine river, just near Pont Neuf (the new bridge) with a view that you will only see and love in Paris. Anywhere else, this is not a view, but in Paris, it is a view that evokes gauloises and cats on roof tops or perhaps a large number of dalmations…

It was soon time for dinner in the Latin Quarter before watching the full moon rise behind Notre Dame cathedral. More soon…

Singapore: Green cake and great coffee

Those who know me, know that I like coffee. So, often when travelling I end up drinking green tea as it can be really hard finding a decent coffee, and Singapore can be like that. But on this trip I think I’ve found one of the best coffees to be had there, in the unlikely arena of Suntec City mall. Just head for Starbuck’s, because right behind it is a coffee and cake place called Cedele’s. This is a local Singapore chain that now has more than 30 outlets in Singapore alone. Their recipe for success? Really nice organic coffee from beans to cup brewed by well-trained baristas – that, and cake.

Cedele’s is primarily an artisan bakery that makes amazing cakes – many of them covered with a rich dark unsweetened chocolate. And one cake in particular caught my eye, in more ways than one. It gets a good tick for having that chocolate coating, but inside is a deep olive green colour. My first thought was that this was a triumph of chemistry over nature, but I checked out the description. It turns out that the green colour comes from green tea with no food dye in sight. I just had to try it. Called a Chocolate Matcha cake, it is coated in a chocolate fudge made from 70% cocoa chocolate, with layers of butter cake flavoured with green tea. It is well worth a try.

[I have no affiliation with nor received any financial benefit from this review or any companies mentioned therein].